Learning Resource Type

Learning Activity

The Story Clay Tells

Subject Area

Arts Education




The teacher will read When Clay Sings by Byrd Baylor or use the digital tool to show the book being read aloud. After reading the book, the teacher will lead a discussion about the images that were shown in the illustrations of the book. Then, students will create three-dimensional clay art to show their personal interests.

This activity was created as a result of the Arts COS Resource Development Summit.

    Arts Education (2017) Grade(s): 2 - Visual Arts


    Explore personal interests and curiosities with a range of art materials.

    Unpacked Content



    • Principles of design
      • Balance
    • Brainstorming
    • Composition
    • Concepts
    • Characteristic
    • Elements of art
      • Space
      • Value
    • Expressive properties
    • Foreground
    • Middle ground
    • Neutral colors
    • Resist

    Essential Questions

    EU: Artists and designers shape artistic investigations, following or breaking with traditions in pursuit of creative artmaking goals.
    EQ: How does knowing the contexts, histories, and traditions of art forms help create works of art and design? Why do artists follow or break from established traditions? How do artists determine what resources and criteria are needed to formulate artistic investigations?

    Skills Examples

    • Create two-dimensional artworks such as drawing or painting by using a variety of media.
    • Use the book, The Goat in the Rug by Charles L.
    • Blood & Martin Link to learn about weaving.
    • Use clay or pipe cleaners to create small animal sculptures.
    • Work in groups to brainstorm ideas for a collaborative art project.
    • Use a book about clay, When Clay Sings by Byrd Baylor to study Native Americans and their traditions.
    • Use the book A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle to explore collage techniques.
    • Create a real or imagined home using two-and-three-dimensional media.
    • Learn how to properly use and store brushes, close glue bottles and marker tops.
    • Use found objects such as leaves, rocks, paper tubes, egg cartons, etc.
    • to create artworks.
    • Use the book A Day with No Crayons by Elizabeth Rusch to explore different colors and values.
    • Create a landscape showing depth by placing the foreground, middle ground and background in their correct positions.

    Anchor Standards

    Anchor Standard 1: Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.


    Learning Objectives

    Learning Objectives

    Students will create three-dimensional clay art that shows their personal interests. 

    Activity Details

    1. Read the book When Clay Sings by Byrd Baylor or use the digital tool to show the book being read aloud. 

    2. After reading the book, ask the students about the illustrations that were included in the book: What types of images were included? Why were these included in a book about Native American pottery?

    The student should see that the images that were included in the book were of people, animals, and events that happened in the lives of the ancient Indians that were mentioned in the book.

    3. Give each student a small ball of clay. Demonstrate hand wedging to students (see this video for a demonstration of how to wedge clay properly). Roll out the clay to an even thickness using a small rolling pin or dowel rod. (Depending on the students' experience level, the teacher may wish to roll each student's clay or roll one large slab of clay out for the whole class, then cut individual pieces). The clay needs to be an even thickness to dry properly, however, its overall shape can be non-uniform as it should appear to be a "shard" of pottery, like the broken pieces mentioned in the book.

    4. After rolling the clay, students should use a finger dipped in water or a damp sponge to smooth the surface of their clay piece. Then, students should use tools to carve a symbol into their clay piece. This symbol should represent a personal interest (for example, a student who likes soccer could carve a soccer ball into their clay). 

    5. Allow the clay pieces to dry overnight. If desired, the students can paint their final piece and finish the paint with a clear sealer.

    Assessment Strategies

    Assessment Strategies

    After each student creates their clay piece, ask students to describe how the symbol etched into the clay represents one of their personal interests. 

    Background and Preparation

    Background / Preparation

    The teacher will need the book When Clay Sings by Byrd Baylor or the ability to play an internet video with sound to show the read aloud.

    The teacher will need enough air dry clay to give each student a ball of clay that will roll out into an approximately 4-inch by 4-inch square. Each student will need a workspace to create their clay piece and a small rolling pin or dowel rod to roll clay to an even thickness. Each student will need materials to carve a symbol into their clay piece. Students will need a small cup of water to use to smooth the surface of their clay piece. If desired, the teacher can provide students with paint for their clay and a clear sealer to protect the final piece.

    Digital Tools / Resources